Lately, I have been giving a lot of thought to the issue of marriage. Perhaps it’s the fact that my brother recently got married, or the fact that this year is my 10th wedding anniversary, either way, reflections on the topic of marriage have taken up a bit of space in my mind and I have decided to do a few posts on it.
They say love is blind, but only a young inexperienced person will make the decision on whom to marry solely on the basis of love. I like to say that love wears glasses and contact lenses.
One important ingredient for increasing the likelihood of your marriage success is marrying your own kind. Gasp! In this day of inter marriage where colour and tribe don’t matter, only a closed minded person will say that right? Wrong. It depends on what your definition of your own kind. By your own kind, I mean someone from a similar kind of background as yourself.
Two weeks ago while I was getting my hair done in preparation for my brother’s wedding, I got talking with the lady doing my hair. She mentioned that there was an African restaurant in Frankfurt where you can get authentic cuisine in an authentic African atmosphere – you sit on the ground and you eat with your hands in that restaurant. So I said why the sitting on the ground, she said it’s just like in Africa, where we sit on the ground.
So I told her wait a minute, did you sit on the ground and eat in your own home, to which she answered yes now. “they would call us to eat and we would go collect our food and find some spot on the ground to eat. Of course, she did not believe me when I said that we always ate on the dining table, and with cutlery, except when eating “okele”. We even used to eat at the dining table in my grandparents’ home, and I have very fond memories of my grandparents’ dining table.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating on the floor as opposed to eating on the dining table, but she was so sure her experiences growing up were the experiences of every other African, as I was about my own experiences. We are both Nigerians, but come from different worlds. For me, I had never really thought of a dining table as anything special until that point, and I just ended up keeping quiet having learnt something new.
It’s the closed almost incestuous world of the African middle class, which makes us not really ‘see’ the millions who are not living like us. For me, it took moving to Europe to start to really think about the plight of those millions, even though I am not from a rich family and my parents are very compassionate people who helped others where they could. It could have something to do with the fact that I moved abroad in my teenage years, but anyway, that is not the focus of this post.
Someone I know is married to a man who has told her before that she pretends to be someone she is not putting on fancy airs. Tell me if the lady above were to meet and date someone from a background like my brother, wouldn’t there be a sort of disconnect? Wouldn’t she accuse him of putting on airs at some point? Or if her brother married a lady from a different of background, wouldn’t her in laws accuse her of being proud and thinking she is better than they are? By the way, I have seen such scenarios play out.
Or a completely banal example from my own life, growing up, and my parents took us on picnics and to zoos and parks. One of my fondest childhood memories is a picnic with friends at the zoo in Makurdi where we lived at the time. My husband’s parents didn’t really take him out like that, so when 5 years into our marriage we started having children and I would expect him to go out on the weekends with us, he was having none of it and it was a bitter point for me that I was the one going all about with my kids alone, which was completely different from how I grew up.
One day, after I had managed to drag him with us by fire and brimstone and he enjoyed himself, he confessed that he wasn’t really used to that type of thing as his parents had lots of obligations while he was growing up that did not allow for that type of family outing. Now, I understand where that’s coming from and I don’t take his reluctance personal any longer, but it took a while for us to get there.
So in saying marrying your kind, I am not talking about race or tribe, but I mean marry someone who is from a similar sort of background as yourself. I am not there if you as a middle class Nigerian marries an oyibo who is either from a dysfunctional home or who places Africans in a certain box, because they will treat you that same way. Or if you being Yoruba woman from a monogamous harmonious home decides to marry a Yoruba man from a dysfunctional polygamous home, or one with absent parents, or one where the man is god. Or you being from a strongly Christian or Muslim home decides to marry someone who comes from a family where their religious beliefs are diluted with a bit of voodoo etc etc.
It’s more efficient marrying someone of a different culture or tribe who shares a similar background than someone from the same state who could as well be from mars while you are from Venus when it comes to their values and how they think. Those differences may seem trivial at first, but the longer you stay together, the more you will see circumstances and situations pop up that were not envisaged and where only having similar outlooks or a strong ability to compromise can get you through easily.
Having met my brother’s wife and in laws and seen the ease of interaction between the two families, being that the backgrounds are so similar made me wish for the same for everyone else that I know who is still searching.
Anyway in conclusion, if you decide to marry outside of your “background” both social as well as economic, make sure that you are entering the marriage with a lot of compromise, and if you are female, with a double dose of compromise. You might think you know everything about your partner, but believe me, 10, 15, 20 years down the line, new situations might arise, where you will be shocked at your partners approach. Don’t say I didn’t warn you o!
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